Assumptions Lead to Negotiating Pitfalls
Seldom does a lion make a faulty assumption about its prey. They take the time to carefully stalk their prey until they know the time is right to strike. Man, on the other hand, eagerly rushes in only to find he forgot to pack his big-game gun!
Assumptions are at the same time necessary and dangerous. It is not likely you will have all of the information you need to make a decision. So you must fill in the blanks, so to speak. How you do this will determine if you are successful or not in whatever you do.
The best defense against a poor assumption is good preparation. Thorough knowledge of your topic, your goal, your strategies and objectives, your company, yourself, your opponent, his company, and the issues relating to the task at hand is the best way to insure your assumptions are reliable.
Few have the luxury of such preparation in their daily routine. So prepare as much as possible before the meeting and then add to your knowledge by measuring the reactions to your questions and comments. During a casual question and answer session you can refine what you know or think with reasonable accuracy if you listen effectively and watch the person's body language.
The problem with bad assumptions is that they can lead to bad conclusions. During your preparation separate what you know and what you assume to be the case. Then focus your conversation on validating your assumptions. In addition to using the preliminary casual discussion period to build a good working relationship or to create a healthy environment within which to negotiate, do not miss the opportunity to uncover false assumptions.